“Let’s Talk About:” White Privilege at Lawrenceville

On Saturday, October 24, the “Let’s Talk About” (LTA) discussion series convened for its third session in the Edith Memorial Chapel to discuss the history of white privilege and its impact on the Lawrenceville community.

On Saturday, October 24, the “Let’s Talk About” (LTA) discussion series convened for its third session in the Edith Memorial Chapel to discuss the history of white privilege and its impact on the Lawrenceville community.The “LTA: White Privilege” event was also live-streamed over a virtual Zoom webinar. The discussion featured faculty members Co-Chair of the Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Alison Easterling, History Teacher Andrew Inzer, Mathematics Teacher Ian Mook, and English Teacher Margaret Ray; as well as students Joshua Cigoianu ’22, Annie Katz ’22, and Sydney McCormack ’21.

In hopes of acknowledging and learning about the impacts of race and identity, each of LTA’s four events this term is centered around the overall theme of race, with the past two LTA sessions focusing on police brutality in the U.S. and colorism.

Ije Achebe ’21 and Ava Conyer ’21 created the LTA series this past summer to create a safe space for students to discuss issues surrounding identity. On the implementation of LTA, Achebe explained, “I wanted to come up with a seminar that the Diversity Council (Divco) could host to structure conversation into the school year on important topics about what’s going on in our country—basically giving students the opportunity to stay updated with actual discourse.”

In contrast to the past LTA discussions, which took on more formal settings with presentations and research, this past LTA discussion was organized in a more intimate setting. Featured speakers sat in a semicircle, responding to prompts about white privilege in a Harkness-esque fashion.

For this discussion in particular, Conyer hoped to create productive conversation centered around white voices. “We wouldn’t have gotten that same reaction or response from people of color,” she explained.

The conversation followed the format of a series of prompts and discussions. Throughout the LTA discussion, participants conversed on the responsibility of acknowledging white privilege and the power it can hold.

Easterling began by saying that recognizing white privilege is “essential to seeing the way the world works. Understanding how it affects society and what its origins are is intellectually provoking, yet there is also a whole emotional and lived experience too that we have to constantly think about.”

On her experience with white privilege, McCormack reflected, “There’s a line between white silence, which is choosing not to do anything and [sitting] back because I can, versus listening and understanding and really using my own identifiers to take action.”

The discussion was then brought closer to the Lawrenceville community and attendees discussed the manifestations of white privilege on campus. Inzer believed that it is important to properly understand the effects of white privilege in our community, saying, “Having those conversations and making sense of it is essential...We need to normalize thinking of these things.”

Expanding on the concept of having these conversations, Cigoianu said, “I feel comfortable most times of my life...Yet being in an uncomfortable place for once—that’s where the best realizations are made. We all need to embrace the uncomfortable.”

Speaking on the importance of the LTA discussion, Conyer said, “A lot of students at our school don’t know what steps to take to learn about themselves and their place in society. Talking about white privilege especially is very hard for a lot of students, as many of them are just learning about their identity. Being able to acknowledge it, as we saw the panelists do, definitely changes the dynamic of the conversation.”

Achebe agreed, “The panelists had some really thoughtful contributions and the students who came had great questions.” In the future, she hopes that “LTA becomes a permanent fixture at Lawrenceville and that the students running it in the future can find ways to dig deep and make the project their own. [She] would love to see new themes covered each term or to see completely different and in-depth conversations about the same themes.”

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